As much as some would like to point to a 4-4 pre-season, there really is no point in looking back on an eight-game exhibition when nothing, in all honesty, was to be gained.
There is no dominant personality for an offence to run through, replaced instead by ball movement, which was good enough for the Raptors to average 108.6 points, a misleading number given that two games were against the defensively challenged Phoenix Suns.
There is no obvious guy to run a play when a game must be won which, in theory, is both good and bad because an element of surprise suddenly exists.
What is known is that Andrea Bargnani is likely to get featured in isolations if such a scenario arises.
Leandro Barbosa, who is nursing a sore wrist, is by far the best the Raptors have in a guy who can break down a defence in the half-court.
The team’s best post scorer is Linas Kleiza.
As Wednesday’s regular-season curtain-raiser approaches, just what kind of team will these Raptors evolve into? It’s a query that was posed to head coach Jay Triano following Sunday’s fan jam session at the Air Canada Centre.
“You have to take the pre-season with caution,” be began. “You can’t get too excited when you play well and you can’t be too disappointed if your not playing well.
“The regular season is different. We’ve set some standards and hopefully we’ll be better because of that.”
From the moment he was informed of his move from Houston to Toronto, David Andersen had an inkling he’d fit in well in his new surroundings.
Even before his first practice, the affable Aussie knew his skill set would match the type of system the Raptors were looking to run.
The grind of training camp and the tedium of the pre-season did little to change Andersen’s perspective on how he would mesh and how comfortable he’d feel in the environment.
“The assimilation has all been good,” Andersen said on Sunday. “The transition has been comfortable because it’s team-oriented and I knew I was coming into that scenario.”
Andersen spent last season with the Rockets, where he was used as a reserve at both power forward and at the centre spot.
For most of his professional life, he honed his trade in Europe, where bigs are used to extend defences and play facing the basket.
The Raptors have a Euro flavour in that they want the ball to swing freely and they have a centre in Andrea Bargnani whose best asset is playing on the perimeter.
Andersen finds himself in head coach Jay Triano’s rotation, his minutes to be doled out primarily as Bargnani’s backup.
The power forward spot will be occupied by Reggie Evans and Amir Johnson with an injured Ed Davis waiting in the wings.
“He’s a veteran guy and I think that’s good for our locker room,” Triano said of Andersen after the Raptors held their annual open practice for roughly 10,000 fans at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday. “He’s been very professional with his attitude and well-liked by his teammates.
“His general basketball IQ is very good, we know that, and I think a lot of that comes from the fact he’s a veteran guy. He’s been in Europe and the NBA. We knew that he could shoot the basketball and we wanted someone who could come in and replace Andrea (Bargnani) when Andrea is . . . in foul trouble.
“He’s been good at finding ways to step out and shoot the basketball, extend bigs from the basket.”
Andersen, obtained in the summer from Houston for a conditional second-round draft pick, has been around the block in a 10-year career. He played with high-profile European teams in Italy (Virtus Bologna), Russia (CSKA Moscow) and Spain (FC Barcelona) in a career that included three EuroLeague championships. He’s twice been an Olympian with Australia, played at this year’s world championship in Turkey and spent last season with the Rockets before moving to Toronto.
“He just knows what it takes to be on a team, what a coach is asking for and what it’ll take for us to be successful,” said Triano. “I think he’s figured that out.”
The Team You Pity
No, it’s not the Cavaliers — they play in the City You Pity. It’s the Toronto Raptors, and it’s come to this. What might save these guys from a season of Rob Babcock-era mocking is that they look like a group that will play with some effort (and not the kind of Mike James “I’m gonna get mine” effort that typified Babcock’s dismal time as GM). They might even be fan favourites, since one cannot underestimate Toronto’s appetite for watching well-marketed crap. At the very least, they play the Heat at Air Canada Centre twice. That, like most moments in Miami’s season, could be great, or it could be a flop, but it will definitely be something to see.
Leandro Barbosa is dealing with a sore right hand after falling hard on Friday night against the Knicks in the Raptors’ final pre-season game. The regular season starts on Wednesday, also against the Knicks.
“He wanted to keep playing and he wants to fight through it,” head coach Jay Triano said. “But we’re just going to be cautious with it for the first couple days.”
Barbosa did not participate during Sunday’s “Fan Jam,” an open-to-the-public scrimmage and practice.
Not surprisingly for a player who has been playing competitively for a little more than five years, Alabi is still experiencing a sharp learning curve.
“It’s not as easy as I thought,” Alabi said as Jack cackled in the background. “I never thought it was going to be easy. But the NBA is a lot faster than college. Players are more aggressive. You’ve got to work extra hard to play. It’s not easy.”
“The fact that he has to go up against Reggie Evans and Joey Dorsey is only going to bode well for him as he develops as a basketball player, because they do not take possessions off against him,” Triano said. “If you can battle against those two guys, you’ll be able to battle.”
When asked if Alabi could spend some time in the D-League this year, Triano said possibly, as the youngster needs to play, no matter the location. He does not figure to get much playing time in Toronto, especially when Davis comes back from his knee injury.
Despite that, he is earning supporters with the Raptors, and quickly.
“We think as kids from the inner city from America, that we’ve got it rough, from our background,” Jack said. “Try coming from a whole other country, learning a whole new language and trying to adapt to a whole new lifestyle, no family at a young age.”
In other words, Alabi was not going to have to embarrass himself on centre court.
“He’s gone through quite enough,” Jack said.
I always ask myself this before a season about a team. Do the Raps have more questions or answers right now? I’d have to say more questions. The two biggest for me are: a. Can they become a solid defensive team? They’ve spent a ton of time on it this pre-season. We’ll start to see on Wednesday night in the opener vs. the Knicks how it will shake out. b. End of shot clock/end of quarters and game – Who is the guy(s) that they can count on to make the defining plays that win games. Will be by committee early on as guys emerge in the ‘real’ games. Barbosa & Kleiza have been the most willing and able so far. Bargnani has to be willing to assert himself in ‘all’ areas to become a ‘guy’. Big test. Lets see who gives us the answers if they can in the ‘real’ games.
THE FAN 590’s Kayla Harris was at the Air Canada Centre for the Raptors Fan Jam. The Raptors played an intra-squad game, participated in contests including selected fans from the crowd, had many giveaways and entertainment from various talents. Kayla Harris gives a full recap(3) and also spoke with Guard Jarrett Jack (1) and Center Andrea Bargnani (2).
Personally, I love that Triano knows what they’ve got in Bargnani and isn’t trying to turn him into something overnight that he hasn’t been over his career. I know we usually assume that the best or most talented player on the roster is supposed to be a leader, like basketball skills and people skills come hand in hand. Guess what? Sometimes that couldn’t be further from the truth. Some people are born leaders, some become them and others will always find it easier to follow the lead of someone else. A week ago we were learning that Bargnani’s teammates are finally getting to get to know him. He’s sitting in the back of the bus. When this is making news, I think it’s pretty clear that Bargnani is not the vocal leader of this team. I also think it’s pretty alright. Always better to be who you are naturally than try to become someone you’re not.
Really love Triano’s honesty this season.